Wednesday, May 28, 2008

From The Archives I

I've been working on everything except art since finishing school for the year. I've been doing lots of yard work, reading, riding my bike, even some dreaded housework. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm not suffering from artist's block, I'm just taking a little time away from the studio while taking care of a lot of other things I've ignored while teaching and on sabbatical. I actually feel too busy right now-I wish there wasn't so much that needed to be done.

I don't have any new work to show you, so I'm starting something that I've been thinking about doing for several months. Every once in a while, I'll post an old piece of work and write some comments about how it was made, what I was thinking about, etc.

Changes During Growth was made in 1999, a few months after I moved to Chicago. It’s the first of about a dozen pieces made the same way, by collaging colored paper onto black and white photographs.

The body of work that Changes During Growth is part of is a further exploration of ideas I was working with while still in graduate school. Much of my second year at Cranbrook Academy of Art was spent exploring the potential in appropriation. In particular, I was appropriating images from 1950’s-1960’s ‘Dick and Jane’ type children’s schoolbooks, exposing the propagandizing function of these archaic educational materials by ‘uncovering’ a new, previously hidden agenda. While at Cranbrook, I altered these images as little as possible. I photographed the pages of old books, and recontextualized them by arranging them with similar illustrations. No other alterations were permitted; to alter the images would destroy the hidden messages I felt they contained.

When I started the work you see above, however, I no longer felt it important to leave the images unaltered. I was interested in communicating similar ideas as before, but I wanted to break from pure recontextualization into more expressive, even autobiograpical work. I had become interested in traditional ideas of color symbolism, and had also returned to an interest in the basic rules of collage as practiced by the Dadaist artists. In the old Dada collages, quotation plays an important role, as does the friction created by placing unrelated elements in close proximity. In this new work, I was attempting a deliberate layering of image and content. I achieved this by copying illustrations from old textbooks onto colored paper, cutting them out, and collaging the resulting solid color shapes onto a black and white photo. The photographs, most of which were also appropriated, have some illusion of depth or mass, which contrasts with the deliberate 2D flatness of the colored paper shapes.

These ideas kept me busy in the studio for quite a while. I made similar work in a variety of mediums, eventually shifting focus to work which asked questions and challenged assumptions about photography as a medium. But that’s best left for discussion about another old piece of work.

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